NCB and Quinn vet­eran Killeen’s ‘Post’ exit plans

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

news­pa­per when it was owned by Thomas Cros­bie Hold­ings (TCH).

The Post was part of the Cork news­pa­per group’s un­for­tu­nate ex­pan­sion and Webprint, owned by Don­agh O’do­herty, printed the Ex­am­iner and its sta­ble of na­tional and lo­cal news­pa­pers.

With the re­ceiver­ship of TCH, the lu­cra­tive print­ing con­tract for the Ex­am­iner went to The Ir­ish Times, with Key Cap­i­tal pick­ing up the Busi­ness Post and later Webprint.

Both now come un­der the um­brella of Sun­rise Me­dia, which was es­tab­lished in early 2016 and is con­trolled by Key Cap­i­tal. No ac­counts have been filed for this com­pany.

Last month, it was con­firmed that BDO Cor­po­rate Fi­nance had been ap­pointed to ex­am­ine “strate­gic op­tions” for The Sun­day Busi­ness Post and Killeen said it had re­ceived an ap­proach for the busi­ness.

Al­though The Ir­ish Times manag­ing direc­tor Liam Ka­vanagh said he would “take a look at it”, he would seem to have his hands full with the on-go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions sur­round­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner.

Killeen, (57), a son of Michael Killeen, a pow­er­ful fig­ure in Ir­ish busi­ness for many decades as head of the In­dus­trial Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity, has been a low-key fi­nancier, work­ing as head of global eq­ui­ties at Dres­d­ner Klein­wort and posts in UBS and Schroders, be­fore form­ing Key Cap­i­tal in 2001.

He later be­came chair­man of the stock­broking firm NCB af­ter he and Key Cap­i­tal had been in­stru­men­tal in fa­cil­i­tat­ing a man­age­ment buy-out from Ul­ster Bank. A 25pc in­ter­est in the firm was ac­quired by the then bil­lion­aire bor­der-based busi­ness­man Sean Quinn.

Killeen stood down as chair­man of NCB and was ap­pointed a direc­tor of the Quinn Group, the controversial Der­rylin, Co Fer­managh-based con­glom­er­ate, join­ing the board from Septem­ber, 2004 un­til his res­ig­na­tion in De­cem­ber, 2008.

Dur­ing this pe­riod, be­tween 2006 and 2007, Sean Quinn se­cretly built up a hold­ing in An­glo Ir­ish Bank, which led to the even­tual col­lapse of both the Quinn Group and An­glo Ir­ish Bank

In Oc­to­ber 2008, two months be­fore Conor Killeen stepped down from the board of the Quinn Group, Quinn In­surance, part of the group, was fined €3.2m by the Fi­nan­cial Reg­u­la­tor for giv­ing a loan of €288m to cover the Quinn fam­ily’s dis­as­trous in­vest­ment in An­glo Ir­ish Bank.

Killeen, who lives in Sandy­mount, Dublin 4, is a direc­tor and the main share­holder in Key Cap­i­tal, al­though in Fe­bru­ary of this year he trans­ferred tranches of shares to fam­ily mem­bers.

The main com­pany in the Key Cap­i­tal Group, KC II, had turnover of €28.5m and a gross profit of €12.7m in 2016, al­though oper­at­ing prof­its fell dra­mat­i­cally, from €2.4m in 2015 to €437,360 last year.

Ad­min­is­tra­tive costs jumped by close on €2m in 2016, with wages and salaries ris­ing by €3m. KC II in­creased its loan to Post Publi­ca­tions by €25,000 dur­ing 2016 to bring it to €150,000.

Doc­u­ments for an­other com­pany, Brin­disi Ltd, which held 90pc of Post Publi­ca­tions, show that it has made an ac­cu­mu­lated loss of €19,513.

When it was put up for sale last month, Key Cap­i­tal said it had ac­quired the news­pa­per and Webprint “at a time when the busi­nesses were in fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties”.

Conor Mor­gan, a direc­tor of Sun­rise Me­dia said: “The per­for­mances of both busi­nesses have been turned around, we are happy with cur­rent trad­ing and are ex­cited about the group’s prospects.”

Al­though op­ti­mistic, Mor­gan did not give any de­tails about the com­pany’s fi­nan­cial health.

There are cer­tainly busi­ness peo­ple out there with pock­ets deep enough to buy a news­pa­per like The Sun­day Busi­ness Post. But it is doubt­ful if their ap­petites would be whet­ted by a news­pa­per whose con­tent at times veers away from the in­ter­ests of its target busi­ness au­di­ence.

For ex­am­ple, it counts Sinn Fein TD Eoin O Broin among its reg­u­lar colum­nists.

Killeen was un­avail­able for com­ment on his role as a direc­tor of the Quinn Group dur­ing the pe­riod from 2004 un­til his res­ig­na­tion in De­cem­ber, 2008.

Conor Killeen — pic­tured at the NCB of­fices in 2003 — was a direc­tor of the Quinn Group from 2004 un­til 2008

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